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Sunday, Dec. 19, 2004

Injury-prone Tochiazuma targets New Year return

Injury-prone ozeki Tochiazuma, who pulled out of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament last month with a fractured shoulder, said Saturday he is targeting a comeback at the upcoming New Year meet in Tokyo.

Tests last month at a Tokyo hospital revealed the injury is more serious than first thought and he would need three months to fully recover.

But the Tamanoi stable grappler is making a speedy recovery and hopes to be fit enough to wrestle at the New Year tourney getting under way at Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 9.

"I'm giving it my all and hope to compete if I can. I have a feeling everything will work out," said Tochiazuma, who will need 10 wins in Tokyo to regain his ozeki ranking.

The 28-year-old was in danger of losing his ozeki status for the fifth time at the Kyushu meet and his withdrawal meant he would be demoted for the second time to sekiwake from sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki for the New Year meet.

A no-show at the New Year meet would likely see Tochiazuma demoted to mid-ranked maegashira.

"If he sits out the tournament he will drop even further down the rankings. Even if he loses it's important that he takes part," said Tochiazuma's stablemaster and father Tamanoi.

Tochiazuma's withdrawal from the Fukuoka tournament was his 13th overall.

A one-time yokozuna candidate, he had held the ozeki rank for 15 tournaments but was demoted for the first time after this year's summer tournament at the Ryogoku Sumo Arena in Tokyo and had just regained his ozeki status at the autumn tourney.



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